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Community-led plans must be integrated into the planning process

Updated: May 13, 2021

For over 10 years now members of Mortlake Brewery Community Group have been volunteering their time and expertise to create an integrated, sustainable and thriving community in Mortlake. Unusually, this is a community that is pro-development and pro-social housing. But we believe the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery must be done in a way that is sensitive to the unique nature and constraints of the site. Sensitive in terms in design as this is where the urban Thames becomes green and building heights should respect the local listed buildings and conservation areas; and sensitive to the inherent transport constraints of the site which is bordered on one side by the river, on the other side by a railway line, and the only access is from a 5 way junction where the South Circular crosses the A316 before it becomes the M3.

Listen To Locals offers a perfect platform for the issue now facing Mortlake. After the GLA called in these planning applications for its own determination, the scheme - which according to Richmond Borough Council already ‘pushed the boundary of what is possible’ - has become bigger, taller, denser: with over 40% more residential units, up to 3 extra stories in height and still there is no credible traffic mitigation, despite that being one of the reasons the GLA called it in the first place! All of this with no community involvement whatsoever, after all those the years of effort by professional volunteers and experts. Futhermore the scheme contravenes the GLA’s updated London Plan which explicitly gives the local authority the right to determine what is a tall building and the locations where tall developments may be appropriate.

At the recent GLA hustings, we asked the candidates two questions: first ‘What message does it send to community groups if 10 years of dedicated, voluntary and professional effort can get so shamelessly ignored?’ and second ‘What would you do, if elected, to bring the proposals back in line with the Community’s ambition, the inherent constraints of the site and the 2021 London Plan?’

Liberal Democrat candidate and leader of Richmond Council Gareth Roberts said it was "disappointing" to see so many more homes "lobbed in” at the Stag Brewery by the developer. He said it was another example of the fact that Sadiq Khan "couldn't give a damn" about South West London where is unlikely to win votes and can take his inner London housing targets and force them on areas that are unable to cope with developments of this scale. Gareth wants greater communication right from the outset for these developments. Asked further about community engagement on the Stag Brewery site, Gareth mentioned that delegations had come to see him, but that many have been "hung up on the issue of the school" rather than the housing and traffic issues.

Green candidate and Richmond Councillor Andree Frieze said her party is pushing for more diversity in the housing market in terms of who bids for land and what land is available for sale, citing the dominance of large-scale developers who are not closely tied to local communities. She stated that unlike the current Mayor, a Green Mayor would listen to community groups and open up the doors to City Hall.

Candice Atterton, for Labour, said she couldn't believe the detail and impressive research conducted by the Mortlake Brewery Community Group, praising their expertise and the work they had done. She recognised that there is a need to do more listening and she would push the concerns raised by MBCG with the Mayor.

Conservative candidate Nick Rogers thought it sent a disgraceful message. In his view over-development is the biggest thing people feel is done to them rather than with them, leading them to become disengaged and disenchanted with the democratic process. He would call for a greater adoption of neighbourhood planning to get people onboard early. If elected he would use the soft power to lobby on behalf of his residents.


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